Brian Allee-Walsh

Teddy Bridgewater gets his shot after passing on other options to return to Saints

Hate to be the bearer of bad news but New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees likely will sit out the first full-price, glorified scrimmage of the preseason Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Or, he could delight the sellout crowd with a cameo appearance, then stand on the sideline, support his teammates and chew sunflower seeds the rest of the night much like he has in five preseason openers since 2014. He played three snaps and threw one pass in the Saints’ opening series against the New England Patriots in 2016.

A case could be made that No. 9 needs to work out the kinks with his new center in game conditions, whether it be rookie Erik McCoy, Cameron Tom or Nick Easton. On the flip side, there is no sense putting the face of the franchise in harm’s way.

Either way, the sun will come up Saturday morning.

I suspect Saints coach Sean Payton will put the game in the hands of reserve quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, with the former getting the start against his old team.

Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in 2014, spent four bittersweet seasons with the Vikings, punctuated by a catastrophic knee injury that ultimately caused his release in Minnesota, subsequent free-agent signing with the New York Jets and eventual trade to New Orleans last August.

Not to get overly dramatic, but it’s moments like Friday night that probably helped Bridgewater spurn overtures from the Miami Dolphins in free agency and sign a guaranteed one-year, $7.25 million contract with the Black and Gold.

Saints officials threw in a $6 million signing bonus for good measure.

Bridgewater weighed the pros and cons of playing for Miami and New Orleans, then did the sensible thing and re-upped with the Black and Gold. It came down to competing for a starting job with a franchise chasing its tail in the same division with New England versus a second season of soaking in the brilliance of Brees and Payton and playing for the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.

Not really much to think about. The Dolphins have a new, unproven head coach in Brian Flores and are in total rebuild while the two-time defending NFC South-champion Saints have designs on Super Bowl LIV, which coincidentally will be played at Miami’s home stadium.

Bridgewater settled on New Orleans knowing full well that he likely would see little playing time behind the iron-man Brees, unless, of course, No. 9 goes down with an injury. Or, if Payton decides not to play Brees in a game of little consequence as was the case last season when Bridgewater started against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17.

With so few opportunities likely coming his way during the regular season, Bridgewater needs to distinguish himself against the Vikings and in subsequent exhibition games against the San Diego Chargers, New York Jets and Dolphins. Not only is the 26-year-old quarterback trying to prove himself in New Orleans but he’s also auditioning for 31 other NFL teams.

For Teddy Bridgewater, time is of the essence.

He proved himself as a starter in Minnesota before the injury. In order to regain a starting role, he needs to prove himself all over again in New Orleans in whatever role comes his way.

His NFL career depends on it.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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